Dunedin Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute

Recent Books

Pandemic 1918 (November 2018)

By Catharine Arnold

December 5, 2018

In the dying months of the First World War, Spanish Flu suddenly overwhelmed the globe, killing up to 100 million people.  It was one of the most devastating natural disasters in world history.

But behind the staggering figures are human lives, stories of those who suffered and those who fought back – at the Front, at home, in the hospitals and laboratories.  Digging into archives, unpublished records, memoirs, diaries and government documents, Catharine Arnold traces the course of the disease through the accounts of those who experienced it.  Some are well known to us, like British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, US President Woodrow Wilson, and writers Katherine Anne Porter and Vera Brittain, but many more are not.  They are the American doughboys, British nurses, South African miners, Chinese labourers, and many others who have no memorial.

Published 100 years after the disease burned its way across the globe, Pandemic 1918 also looks towards our future and what we still need to learn if we’re to stop it from happening again.

The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair (November 2018)

By Joel Dicker

December 5, 2018

August 30, 1975

The day of the disappearance.  The day Somerset, New Hampshire, lost its innocence.

That summer, struggling author Harry Quebert fell in love with fifteen-year-old Nola Kellergan.  Thirty-three years later, her body is dug up from his yard, along with a manuscript copy of the novel that secured his lasting fame.

Quebert is the only suspect.

But with Nola, in death as in life, nothing is ever as it seems.

Broken Ground (November 2018)

By Val McDermid

December 5, 2018

‘Somebody has been here before us.  And he’s still here..’

When a body is discovered in the remote depths of the Highlands, DCI Karen Pirie finds herself in the right place at the right time.  Unearthed with someone’s long-buried inheritance, the victim seems to belong to the distant past – until new evidence suggests otherwise, and Karen is called in to unravel a case where nothing is as it seems.

It’s not long before an overheard conversation draws Karen into the heart of a different case, however – a shocking crime she thought she’d already prevented.  As she inches closer to the twisted truths at the centre of these murders, it becomes clear that she’s dealing with a version of justice terrifyingly different to her own…

The Psychology of Time Travel (November 2018)

By Kate Mascarenhas

December 5, 2018


Four female scientists invent a time travel machine.  They are on the cusp of fame, but then one of them suffers a breakdown and puts the whole project in peril…


Ruby knows her Granny Bee was one of the four, but they never talk about her past.  Until they receive a message from the near future reporting the mysterious death of an elderly lady…


When Odette found the body she went into shock.  But after the inquest fails to find any answers, she is frustrated.  Who is this dead woman that haunts her dreams?  Any why is everyone trying to cover up her murder?

Careless Love (November 2018)

By Peter Robinson

December 5, 2018

A young student has apparently committed suicide.  Her body is found in an abandoned car on a country road.  She didn’t own a car.  She didn’t even drive.  How did she get there?

Meanwhile a man in his sixties is found dead in a gully up on the wild moorland.  He is wearing an expensive suit and carrying on identification.  Post-mortem findings indicate he died from injuries sustained during the fall.  But what was he doing up there?  And why are there no signs of a car in the vicinity?

As the inconsistencies multiply and the mysteries proliferate.  Annie’s father’s new partner, Zelda, comes up with a shocking piece of information that alerts Banks and Annie to the return of an old enemy in a new guise.

This is someone who will stop at nothing, not even murder, to get what he wants – suddenly the stakes are raised and the hunt is on.

Cedar Valley (November 2018)

By Holly Throsby

December 5, 2018

‘He strolled down Valley Road, past the hairdresser and a small café.  A warm wind stirred, carrying with it the faint smell of pies and horses, and the man paused for just a moment before he sat down.  Benny Miller would have driven right past him in her station wagon on that bright and brimming day.’

On the first day of summer in 1993, two strangers arrive in the town of Cedar Valley.

One is a calm-looking man in a brown suit.  He makes his way down the main street and walks directly to Cedar Valley Curios & Old Wares, sitting down on the footpath, where he leans silently against the big glass window for hours.

The other is 21-year-old Benny Miller.  Fresh out of university, Benny has come to Cedar Valley in search of information about her mother, Vivian, who has recently died.  Vivian’s mysterious old friend, Odette Fisher, has offered Benny her modest pale green cottage for as long as she wants it.

Is there any connection between the man on the pavement and Benny’s quest to learn more about her mother?  Holly Throsby is the perfect guide as Cedar Valley and its inhabitant slowly reveal their secrets.

The Wife (November 2018)

By Meg Wolitzer

December 5, 2018

Joe and Joan Castleman are on an aeroplane, 35,000 feet above the ocean.  Joe is thinking about the prestigious literary prize he is about to receive, while Joan is plotting how to leave him.  For too long she has played the role of supportive wife, turning a blind eye to his misdemeanours, while quietly being the keystone of his success.  But behind the compromises, the disappointment and disillusionment there lies a secret…

Long Road to Mercy (November 2018)

By David Baldacci

November 27, 2018

‘Eeny, meeny, miny, moe…’

It is thirty years since FBI Special Agent Atlee Pine’s twin sister, Mercy, was taken from the room they shared as young children.  Notorious serial killer Daniel James Tor was caught and convicted of other murders, and, while there’s no proof, Atlee believes he knows what happened to Mercy.  Tor still resides in a high-security prison in Colorado.

Assigned to the remote wilds of the western United States, Atlee has never stopped the search for her sister, and, wracked with survivor’s guilt, she has spent her life hunting down those who hurt others.  She will always ask herself.  ‘Why her, and not me?’

Now, Atlee is called in to investigate a case in the Grand Canyon when a mule is found dead with strange carvings on its body, and its rider missing.  She knows about killers and perhaps understands them better than any profiler in the FBI, but it soon becomes clear that she will need to put her skills to the ultimate test in this investigation.

It seems that Atlee will now have to confront a new monster.  And face the one of her nightmares.

Past Tense (November 2018)

By Lee Child

November 27, 2018

Jack Reacher plans to follow the autumn sun on an epic road trip across America, from Maine to California.  He doesn’t get far.  On a country road deep in the New England woods, he sees a sign to a place he has never been – the town when his father was born.  He thinks, what’s one extra day?  He takes the detour.

At the very same moment, close by, a car breaks down.  Two young Canadians are trying to get to New York City to sell a treasure.  They’re stranded at a lonely motel in the middle of nowhere.  It’s a strange place … but it’s all there is.

The next morning in the city clerk’s office, Reacher asks about the old family home.  He’s told no one named Reacher ever lived in that town.  He knows his father never went back.  Now he wonders, was he ever there in the first place?

So begins another nail-biting, adrenaline-fueled adventure for Reacher.  The present can be tense, but the past can be worse.  That’s for damn sure.

The Helpline (November 2018)

By Katherine Collette

November 27, 2018

Germaine Johnson never met a pie chart she didn’t like.  People?  Less satisfactory.  So when she loses her job as a senior mathematician and goes to work on the council’s Senior Citizens Helpline, it’s …

Well, let’s just say the best thing about it is the free biscuits.

Then Mayor Verity Bainbridge approaches Germaine about something more interesting.  A secret project involving the senior citizens centre, its resident troublemaker Celia Brown and their feud with the golf club next door.  Which is run by the strangely attractive Don Thomas.

Don and the mayor want the seniors closed down, Germaine wants what Don and the mayor want.  But when she’s forced to get to know the ‘troublemakers’ – things get more complicated.

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